"Sparky Who?" and "Captain Hook": The Legacy of George Lee Anderson

Greg Judy@gregjudy06Contributor IIINovember 5, 2010

A PORTRAIT OF DETROIT TIGERS MANAGER SPARKY ANDERSON AT THE OAKLAND COLISEUM IN OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA DURING THE 1991 SEASON.
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

George Lee Anderson, otherwise known as "Sparky," passed away at a hospice near his California home on Wednesday.

Anderson was a manager in Major League Baseball for 26 years. He is best known as the manager of the "Big Red Machine" from 1970-1978, where he led the team to two World Series.

A native of South Dakota, Sparky was signed out of high school by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1953. Sparky labored for five years in the Dodgers' minor league system before being traded to Philadelphia.

The Phillies immediately thrust Anderson in the starting lineup, where he played 152 games at second base but only batted .218. The next year, Sparky returned to the minor leagues. He never played another game in a big league uniform.

Sparky decided to become a manager and was given the job of managing the Triple-A Toronto Maple Leafs in 1964. He was a coach for the San Diego Padres during the 1969 season. After the season, Sparky accepted the job as manager of the Cincinnati Reds.

Immediately, there was an outcry in the city of Cincinnati. No one had ever heard of Sparky Anderson. The headline in The Cincinnati Enquirer read: "Sparky Who?" Reds fans were outraged that the club had hired a no-name outsider.

But the outcry did not last for long, as Sparky led the Reds to 102 wins and a trip to the World Series in his first year. The Reds lost the series to the Orioles, but Sparky was now a Cincinnati legend. The Reds made the World Series again in 1972 but lost to Reggie Jackson and the Oakland Athletics.

In 1975, the Reds won a team-record 108 games and finally won the World Series by beating Boston in a famous seven-game series, which is considered by some to be the best World Series ever. Anderson and the Reds brought home another World Series in 1976 by sweeping the New York Yankees.

During his time with the Reds, Sparky was known as "Captain Hook" for his impatience with his starters.

The Reds fired Anderson (maybe the worst move in Reds history) in 1978 after missing the playoffs for two years in a row.

The Detroit Tigers jumped on the chance to hire Sparky, which they did halfway through the 1979 season. The Tigers won a franchise-record 104 games in 1984 and also beat the San Diego Padres in the World Series. Anderson was named American League manager of the year that year.

In 1986, Sparky became the first manager to win 600 games in both leagues. However, after finishing in second place in the division in 1987, the Tigers lost 103 games in 1989, a season in which Sparky left the team for one month due to stress.

Sparky retired from baseball following the 1995 season, a season in which the start was delayed due to the strike.

Sparky Anderson was elected, as a Cincinnati Red, to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000. The Reds also elected him to their Hall of Fame and retired his No. 10 jersey.

Sparky holds a very unique legacy. He is the first of only two managers to win a World Series in both leagues.

Sparky will be missed by baseball fans around the world, not only for his winning teams, but also for his contributions to charity. In 1987, Anderson founded a charity geared toward children's hospitals.

George Lee "Sparky" Anderson: 1934-2010

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